Things That Make You Say 'Hmmmmm'

Posted: November 15, 2013

Pineapple sage as an excellent Fall accent

When I planted up a container earlier this year with pineapple sage (Salvia elegans), ornamental peppers, petunias, and dusty millers, I didn’t bargain on it requiring quite so much care – or that it would still be going great guns up until Halloween. OK, the petunias have given up the ghost, and the peppers are on the brink, but the dusty millers are thriving and the pineapple sage is in its glory.

I knew to expect red flowers in the fall, and until then the foliage was lovely throughout the summer, losing only a few leaves due to neglect (forgetting to water every day…) But NOW is the jackpot – the red tubular flowers have been producing for at least a month, surviving through two hard frosts. Just today, I discovered that they are wonderfully fragrant and have many secondary flower clusters waiting to open. The honeybees are having a ball!

Next year I plan to plant some directly in the garden (saving on all that daily watering), making sure they have at least a 3 x 3 foot space all their own.

Great plant! Who knew!

A Potato By Any Other Name

This question was posed recently: Is it true that roses can be propagated by sticking a cutting in a potato? Answer: it depends on whom you ask!

I did a number of Internet searches and found a slew of conflicting information ranging from – ‘all I got was potatoes’ to ‘that’s how everyone does it back in Poland’.

(Honest – that was a legitimate quote…)

After much condensing of suggestions, here’s what you can do to test the validity of this propagation method:

In the fall, take 6-8 inch tip cuttings that have recently bloomed (sterilizing the blade between cuts with a 10% bleach solution). Cut off the lower leaves and the spent flower, and soak overnight in a willow rooting solution (soak small pieces of willow twig in rainwater that has been boiled). Punch a 3” hole in a small potato (eyes removed) (ouch) and insert the rose cutting (it should be a tight fit). Bury the potato in some good potting soil in a pot with drainage so that there are 3 inches of cutting above the soil. Keep in indirect sunlight in a warm location. Maybe a plastic baggie over the top of the pot will keep in moisture, but watch for rotting.

With a little luck, maybe this will work and you will have some new rose bushes ready to plant out next spring (after appropriate hardening-off procedures).

Let me know how this works for you…

A Daunting Project

Just in case you want to dance attendance on a potted gardenia throughout the winter months, here are the how-to’s:

Please be aware that experts feel that gardenias are somewhat picky house-plants, but if you persist in trying, provide the following – medium light, average temperatures (65-75 degrees F), and high humidity, misting often. Feed once a month with ½ strength acidic fertilizer; keep moist, but with reduced watering during the time spent indoors. Use soft, tepid water.

If there are no blooms, it may be too warm; gardenia may drop flower buds if it is over-watered, under-watered, or the humidity is too low.

Re-pot annually or every 2-3 years (depends on which book you read) in good organic soil. Prune in late winter or early spring after blooming.

Gardenias are prone to scale insects, mealy-bugs, aphids and spider mites.

Don’t you have something else to be doing?

Contact Information

Tina Clinefelter
Penn State Master Gardener, Clinton County
Tina shares her 'Dig It!' news column in the the Lock Haven Express newspaper